Pause to Reflect

Impulsivity can lead someone in the wrong direction, in a relationship, on a job search, or even out on a hike. Imagine a person who, after knowing someone for two minutes, jumps into a serious relationship, only later to discover that the lover is married. Or think of a situation in which an individual believes she heard a piece of scandalous news and then runs to the boss. Or a hiker who takes off without a map, intentionally goes off-trail because he thinks there might be a terrific view just around the boulder, only to become hopelessly lost.

Impulsive behaviors can get a person into serious trouble.

Now consider how different the results would be if, before rushing off, the person paused to reflect. For example, after writing an angry email, what if he put it aside for an hour, thought about it, then deleted it. The outcome would be completely different.

Your task is to write a story in which impulsive behaviors negatively impact your character’s life. Dialogue would be useful here to give readers insight into what your character is thinking. Descriptions are also important to allow readers to understand where the character is.

Have fun with this one.

False Assurances

            An assurance is when you tell someone that something is true or will happen in order to make them feel calm or less worried. When statements given are based on perception rather than fact, then those are false assurances. Such statements might make the person feel better even though the basis of the pronouncement has little to do with actual facts. In other words, false assurances often lead people astray.

            Imagine if a doctor told you your blood pressure was in the normal range, but it really wasn’t. You continue eating foods with high salt content. What happens? Because of false assurances, your behaviors might lead to a heart attack or death.

            What if your boss told you that your job was secure? Two days later you’re terminated along with a bunch of other employees. Because of false assurances you hadn’t begun a job search and so might have missed out on opportunities elsewhere.

            Your task is to write a story in which false assurances plays an important role. You might want to use something that happened to you because you know exactly how it felt and what the results were.

            Dialogue is important so that readers see and hear what’s said along with the reactions of both the speaker and the listener.

            Have fun with this one.

How Do You Want to Be Remembered?

            When you have passed, what will you want people to remember about you? What stories should they tell or keep hidden? Most importantly, is there anything you can do now to control the narrative?

            We tend to recall the negatives in our lives. Imagine your friends and family gathered together sharing stories of their interactions with you. Are they going to mention times when you yelled or argued? Caused friction in some way? Or will there be laughter as they reminisce about the birthday cake you made that slithered apart, the dress you made that split apart at the seams, the times you offered helping hands to those less fortunate?

            Your task is to write a story or essay that controls the narrative. Imagine that you have an opportunity to set the record straight, to clear the air about misconceptions that might be attributed to you.

            If it’s uncomfortable to write about yourself, then choose a character who is in a similar situation. He knows that his time is ending and he wants to write down those things that he hopes people will recall after he is gone.

            This is important work.

            Have fun with this one.

The Big Decision

            You’re most of the way through the novel. The protagonist has struggled over many obstacles and seems to be on the road to success. Suddenly a chasm-sized barrier is in the way. She has two possible choices to make. She can turn around and retrace her steps or find a way across. A decision has to be made that could potentially alter her life.

            What she chooses is determined by the characteristics readers have seen in the individual. A timid person or one with low self-esteem will turn around while the character with tons of self-confidence will plow ahead.

            Your task is to write a scene in which your protagonist is confronted with a choice that would make a huge difference in his life.

            Begin by making a list of possible obstacles. They can be realistic or fantastical, depending upon the type of story that you are writing. Once you have chosen the primary obstacle, add possible solutions. Once again, solutions depend upon the genre you have chosen.

            Your character is proceeding along, the obstacle arises. A choice is made. Make sure that readers will believe the outcomes and that the emotions that your character experiences come through.

            Have fun with this one.

Complete and Utter Chaos

            There are times when anything that could possibly go wrong, does. It feels like the game when you stack dominoes with the intent of controlling their fall. But then your hand wiggles or someone’s knee jiggles the table or an earthquake hits and down they go, not when you intended, but do to some type of chaotic movement.

            Perhaps your car is due to a check-up. You make an appointment with the mechanic, but before you can get there, something horrible happens. Maybe your car breaks down in the middle of a busy major thoroughfare. Perhaps you get hit by a driver who wasn’t paying attention. Or it could be roadwork that causes a huge delay making you miss your time.

            Things happen, often in a bunch, that derail our activities. Some we can laugh off, but others cause a huge inconvenience.

            Your task is to write a story in which a series of unexpected things happen. How your character reacts will tell readers quite a bit about her personality. Make the events large or small, or a combination of both. Most importantly, allow readers to be there with the character.

            Include sensory details and emotional reactions.

            Have fun with this one.

Dear Diary

            Journal writing has been popular for many, many years. Young girls were often given a diary in order to record their thoughts. They were encouraged to write every day, even if they had little of interest to report.

            Diaries were often padlocked with a tiny key. The girl would hide both the diary and the key in order to prevent parents and siblings from reading their thoughts.

            Diaries became important as a tool for historical research. By reading such records, historians are able to deduce what life was like during times of peace and war, during turbulent and peaceful times.

            Your task is to imagine the diary entries that your protagonist would write. These do not have to be complete stories, but rather figments of time capturing the emotions that the individual experienced. Later on these thoughts might inspire a story, but for now the task is to simply write what the person most likely worried about, dreamt of, feared and yearned for.

            Have fun with this one.

Following Directions

            From an early age we learn the rules, what to do, when to do it and when to stop. We are taught where to do something and for how long. Lining up begins when we are young and continues throughout the rest of our lives.

            What we are seldom taught, however, is how not following directions impacts others.

            For example, imagine you’re on a trip with forty other people. The tour director tells you to be on the bus before eight in the morning. You figure the bus won’t leave until 8:10, so you don’t bother to appear until 8:11. Your inability to follow directions impacts the rest of the group.

            All games have directions. Children are taught to follow them in order to make the game fair. What happens when someone feels above the “law”? They are called cheaters.

            The same term can be applied to adults as well.

            Your task is to write a scene in which following directions plays an important role. It might be interesting to have some characters who always comply, some who sometimes comply and some who seldom, if ever, comply. The combination builds tension, something needed to make a story interesting.

            Have fun with this one.

Fan Fiction

            Imagine loving a story series so much that you write your own takes on what the characters do. You imitate the settings, clothing, languages and behaviors of your favorites. You find Internet sites dedicated to the stories and submit your versions. Other fans love what you’ve done and so you write more.

            But it’s not just for fans of current stories, but even for fairy tales from long ago. How many versions of Cinderella, for example, have you read? Just about every culture has a Cinderella or Prince Charming. There are contemporary versions in which Cinderella is the rescuer or in which Rapunzel sits down below the window and calls up, asking the trapped prince to let down his hair.

            Your task is to take a known character and story and make it your own. Expand on the story by creating new situations and settings or by bringing an old tale into the present. Or maybe well into the future. Think about what technologies existed during the first writings and what you want your characters to be able to utilize.

            Make sure there is tension, that something happens that places your character in jeopardy. Use both narrative and dialogue. Include those all-important sensory details.

            Have fun with this one.

Wasting Time

            Our days are often filled with running here, there and everywhere. We seldom have a minute to spare, time for ourselves because we are so busy doing things for others. However, whenever we do manage to eek out a bit of time, instead of doing chores, we might goof around. The things we find to do say a lot about us.

            For example, let’s say a person chooses to play games instead of weeding the garden. The games provide relaxation while weeding is back-breaking work. Perhaps we head off to the kitchen and create something fabulous to eat, something that’s just for fun. Maybe we take off on a long walk, listening to an audible book or podcast.

            The choices we make when we’ve got an opportunity to waste time help define who we are.

            Your characters need things to do that are outside of work.

            Your task is to first create a list of activities that make sense depending upon your character’s interests. Narrow it down to the one that you believe you can include in a story.

            Consider setting elements of time and space. Include sensory details so readers will smell the flowers, taste the gourmet cupcakes and feel the bark on the trees. Readers want to know how sweaty and stinky the character gets and whether or not the activity is exhausting.

            Add in one other character with whom the protagonist can share either the fruits of the activity or be there as a companion.

            Have fun with this one.

Your Favorite Place

            Close your eyes and visualize the place that makes you the happiest, the most calm. The place that inspires a feeling of awe. Listen to the sounds. Breathe in and take in the smells of the flowers, the earth, food cooking. Reach out and touch the bark of trees, the silkiness of flower petals, the gravel beneath your feet.

            Use your imaginary camera and take a picture and then another one. Pick up a paint brush, dip it in some paint and create a replica of what you see in your imagination.

            Think about how you feel. Are your shoulders relaxed? Has your breathing slowed? Did a sense of calmness flow over you?

            This is your happy place.

            Your task is to create a comparable place for your character. Begin by imagining him in a variety of places and situations. Where does he feel most fragile, most overwhelmed? That’s not it, but it’s important to the story. Now think about one or two places where she’ll feel relaxed. Where the sense of awe comes to her.

            That’s the spot where a portion of the story will occur.

            Write a scene in that place. Add in other characters to people the situation. Remember to include sensory details here and there so that readers will enjoy being there as well.

            Have fun with this one.